There are a number of Americans attempting to work out a deal with their creditors right now. One thing many of them don't realize, is that when the creditor makes the deal and forgives a portion of the debt, the portion forgiven, is reported to the IRS on a 1099-c. The forgiven debt reported is than treated as income and may be taxable.
If some of your debt is forgiven as a result of this forgiven debt, you should receive a copy of the form 1099-c “cancellation of debt” from the creditor as well. Unfortunately, the problem doesn't not go away if the creditor fails to send the form to you and only sends it to the IRS.
You should report this forgiven debt on your income tax return and pay tax on it unless:
1. You were insolvent
If you were insolvent i.e. your liabilities exceeded the fair market value of your assets at the time the debt was forgiven, the forgiven portion shouldn't be counted as income.
2. You filed for bankruptcy
If you filed for bankruptcy before the debt was forgiven, the 1099-c is issued to your bankruptcy estate and therefore not taxable to you.
3. If you qualify under the Mortgage Forgiveness Act of 2007
If the forgiven debt was a result of a home foreclosure, the Mortgage Forgiveness Act of 2007 may apply to you.
If you have received a 1099-c read the IRS form 982. Use this form to calculate your insolvency or attach a detailed letter. Work through IRS publication 4681 if you think you are involvent as well, as it contains instructions and a worksheet.
Better yet, get someone qualified to help you.